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Best Webcam on a Budget for Linux? 42

Garak asks: "Webcams seem to be hit and miss for a combination of image quality, light sensitivity and price. Lately I've been mostly missing looking for a webcam to use on my mobile telerobot that I'm building for my thesis project. I require a webcam that will produce an acceptable picture under normal office lighting without breaking my shoe string budget. So Slashdot, what is the best value in a low cost, Linux compatible webcam?"
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Best Webcam on a Budget for Linux?

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  • I have used an old Logitech Quickcam (parallel port interface).
    The quality isn't great, but it works.
    • I've *never* gotten one of these to work. I've tried different drivers, different kernels, different software... nothing.

      What are you using, exactly?

      I have two dozen of these lying around. I'd love to use them.
      • I hadn't used this camera in a while, and not on my current computer. My first shot was to compile a new module for my kernel: Quickcam BW Video For Linux (VIDEO_BWQCAM)
        I downloaded gqcam and ran it, but it had trouble getting anything but lines.

        So, then I downloaded qcam, and removed the bw_qcam module, as the app uses the parallel port directly, without a driver.
        Tada. I got some icky grainy black and white pictures, just like I always remembered... (:

        The xqcam app is probably having trouble with my zi
      • A year or three ago I set up a Color QuickCam 2 [toddverbeek.com] running on a stock Mandrake 9.2 install (kernel 2.4) with cqcam 0.91 [duke.edu] (still the current version). It took a little work to get it functioning, but that was more about me not knowing what I was doing, rather than actual complications.
  • by jgaynor ( 205453 ) <jon@nOspaM.gaynor.org> on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @11:00AM (#11617837) Homepage
    Take an old BTTV-chipset based TV in card with composite in (wintvgo comes to mind - ebay [ebay.com] or craigslist [craigslist.org] it) and hook it up to a real camera.

    While the two of these may seem pricy - the truth is the card is cheap and non-USB cameras are abundant and cheap because you dont HAVE to get a camera 'designed' to work with your pc and therefore price-inflated. You can use an old camcorder or even a security camera. Either can be found around for alot less than you think. Additionally, The image quality on these real CCD based cameras far exceeds that of most USB devices and the PCI card means you get close to 800 lines of horizontal resolution in at very little processor cost.

    I do the same thing here [gaynor.org] and it cost me $25 (had the pci card, bought an old videoconferencing camera on ebay).
    • by JVert ( 578547 ) <{corganbilly} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @01:50PM (#11619992) Journal
      Home depot has some color cameras with IR nightvision, the IR is a little strong for sitting on top of the monitor might blast your face with light, or maybe the monitor gives off enough light that the camera wont use the IR. The color balance isn't that good but I bet you can tune it in pretty close in the capture card. I picked this one up for $50. Just a real nice camera for low light conditions (most home computers).
    • The problem is that we are using an old laptop motherboard onboard the robot so a PCI card won't work and I haven't seen many cheap pcmcia/cardbus/pc card capture cards.
      • Ahhhh you're right - in that case it wouldn't work. I guess you're going to have to go with USB :(. If you're using an older laptop motherboard I don't think you're problem is going to be the video interface though, It will probably be the video processing.

        What is the telerobot going to use the video for? Is it simply an interface to the remote controller (human or non-human) of the robot? If so you should think about using simple wireless video. 2.4Ghz wireless video is plentiful and cheap, even on b
        • by Garak ( 100517 ) <chris.insec@ca> on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @04:25PM (#11621934) Homepage Journal
          Part of the idea is that this robot can hop onto any 802.11b/g network from which it will connect to a webserver where one can login and operate the robot. The video is only for human eyes and no processing will be done besides compression.

          My thesis is a object avoidance and navagation system for mobile telerobots. My theory is that the view from the camera is too narrow to nagivate from and that additional information is requried.

          I've already spent by budget on sensors, electronic componts and mircontrollers. The webcam was supose to be the simple cheap off the self part.

          I already had an old dell PII 400/w 256megs of ram laptop motherboard and 802.11b card kicking around. Its currently setup to boot from cd with a usb flash drive root so we can remove the cdrom to conserve power and space onboard the robot.
    • Ok, so the important question first... why do you have a blog-ish site if you never update it? ;)

      Now the really important question: What is the device that does your tilt/swivel? What's the interface? It's nice... and it's *fast*
    • "and the PCI card means you get close to 800 lines of horizontal resolution"

      Uh, just how do you get 800 lines of resolution from an NTSC (486 visible lines) or PAL (576 visible lines) source?
  • by SirPrize ( 590850 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @11:01AM (#11617848)
    I bought a Logitech QuickCam Zoom [logitech.com], which has worked perfectly with the Philips chipset driver available here [demon.nl]. Unfortunately, due to political differences between the Kernel developers and the developer of this module (who provided a source provided low-quality driver, and a binary only higher-quality driver), the module is no longer actively maintained. :-( This was already covered here on Slashdot [slashdot.org].
  • I remember an article from a few years (?) back that showed a robot that could play tetris - not an automatic tetris player, but a robot that used a camera to look at the screen, attempt to match the falling shape to memory, and play according to what it thought was falling. I can't find the link on google (too many locations trying to get me to download tetris), but if someone with more time on their hands had a look I bet you could find the camera they were using. It'd have to be fast enough to detect the
  • by beegle ( 9689 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @11:31AM (#11618186) Homepage
    My experience has been that the cheap cameras can vary wildly, even when the model number stays the same. So, if you look online and discover that somebody managed to get their VizoPro 5000QX-5 (or whatever) working with Linux, even if you go to the store and pick up your own, it may not work because the other guy had a different revision (that's probably not listed either on the box or the camera).

    The way I see it, there are two ways to handle this:

    Budget: go to a store with a liberal return policy and buy a cheap webcam. Take it home and try it. If it doesn't work, return it and get another one. Repeat until successful or out of cameras.

    Lazy: buy an iSight or some other firewire camera. They cost a bit more, but firewire video is basically "driverless", so it's pretty much guaranteed to work.
    • The iSight has serious problems in low-light conditions. And by "low light" I mean typical indoor lighting.

      I mean, the quality looks good... when you can make anything out. The iSight really needs direct sunlight or otherwise a very well lit environment.
  • I use a four year old Intel Create and Share USB [intel.com] webcam with GnomeMeeting [gnomemeeting.com]. Decent enough picture with average light.

    Why not go used? Looks like there's plenty on Ebay [ebay.com].

  • It would help if you more accurately described what your "low budget" is, but anyway:

    I was able to pick up an Orange Micro iBot, a Firewire Webcam, from eBay for about $40. It delivers great quality, but the colors are a bit wonky (looks fine in black and white). This might be due to the lighting in my room, though, so who knows, YMMV.

    Anyway, firewire is great, as other people have mentioned, especially for video. I get the 30 FPS rated by my camera without breaking a sweat, at full resolution. Compare th
    • The problem is that we are using an old dell PII400 laptop motherboard which only has USB 1.1

      The project is to build a telerobot, so basicly capture, compress and then stream the data over 802.11b

      Why an old dell motherboard and 801.11b? Because thats what I already had kicking around.

      My thesis is really on assisted navaigation for mobile telerobots but we gota built the robot first.

      Are there any USB1.1 webcams outthere where linux supports compression? Under windows I can get 15-20fps while under linux
  • by Goeland86 ( 741690 ) <goeland86NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @12:20PM (#11618743) Homepage
    honestly, for a cheap webcam ($30!), the D-Link DSB-C310 is great. It's got an ov518+ chipset, which is supported by the kernel, all you need is the module from http://alpha.dyndns.org/, load ovcamchip and ov511 and you're rolling with xawtv or any other v4l application. Great price, not too ugly to look at, and decent quality video. I'd buy another one if I were to get a webcam again.
  • Webcams (Score:4, Informative)

    by crisco ( 4669 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @01:02PM (#11619213) Homepage
    Quite a few webcams are based on various Sunplus bridge chips, which have excellent Linux support through the SPCA drivers. The driver author, Michel Xhaard, has a list of supported cameras [mxhaard.free.fr] along with a rough quality rating.
  • by lutchann ( 857818 ) on Wednesday February 09, 2005 @01:23PM (#11619546)

    I'll throw in with the Firewire crowd. IIDC cams are the way to go for compatibility and performance. The IIDC device class is standardized so the same kernel module works with any Fireware cam.

    As far as image quality, the best cam I've seen (for a reasonable price) is the Unibrain Fire-i [unibrain.com]. It works better in low-light situations than any other webcam I've tried.

    I've posted a bit of general information on webcam hardware [litech.org] on my webpage, if you want an introduction to the different options you have under Linux. It's a bit dated but mostly still relevant.

  • Why aren't there hardware standards for webcams like there are for other USB devices? All USB still cameras support Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP). All joysticks support the USB Human Interface Device (HID). Why not webcams?
    • by lutchann ( 857818 )
      See the link in my previous post. USB 1.1 has a maximum transfer rate of 12 Mbps which is much too low for any useful video streams, so when the USB spec was written nobody really thought it would be used for webcams at all. Unfortunately the ubiquity of USB made USB webcams inevitable, so here we are.
  • Yet another throw in vote for firewire cameras.

    One robot I built as part of a club used two firewire cameras. (full resolution from both at 30fps on a 400mb bus)

    Unibrain has them on cheap (you will need a ND filter if used outside though)

    Also, the apple iSight has autofocus (about .5-1 sec delay to focus), if you need that.
  • compression (Score:2, Informative)

    If you're planning on doing any computerized analysis of images, a cheap webcam might be worthless. Most vision algorithms look at the laplacian of the image in order to achieve lighting invariance. However, most webcams compress images in ways that completely trash the laplacian, but aren't very noticeable to the human eye. D-CAM is an uncompressed standard for digital cameras, and is perfect for machine vision applications. We've used Point Grey Dragonfly cameras with great success.
  • For example, Surplus Computers [softwareandstuff.com] has some for under $20.

    .

  • I have one of these that I got for about $80. It's not really designed for mobile use but it gives a decent picture and is a stand alone web enabled device that does still images and streaming. It works both wireless (802.11b) and wired via ethernet. I like it and the price was right. I just wish they would make an outdoor version.
  • by Zekat ( 596172 )
    Axis http://axis.com/products/video/camera/index.htm [axis.com] has a nice line of network cameras that themselves run linux and a webserver to provide the picture. May be too spendy, tho'.
  • Field of view would be easy to conquer if you provide several simultaneous streams. That's the approach I'm investigating with stereo pairs of cameras for 3d view. The problem is that most camera makers don't follow the USB spec, so you can't plug in more than one of the same model [trackercam.com] at a time.

    The exception to the rule is the Vista Imaging VICAM, which was originally made in a parallel port version, then bought by 3Com and released in a USB version as the 3Com HomeConnect Camera [usbman.com]. It was then bought by Digi/I [digi.com]
  • Beware of Logitech Quickcam Express. The old ones seem to have good Linux support, but they are now using a new detector (ICM532), whose support is only in it's infancy under Linux. I bought one a couple of months ago and found this out the hard way !!

    (My camera is 0x46d/0x920 and I have not got it to work properly yet, thought others have).
  • For low-cost low-light webcam performance, it's still difficult to beat the Philips Toucam Pro (aka Toucam 840). The electronics haven't changed for a few years, but I haven't found anything better in low light. See Lundycam [demon.co.uk] for a comparison of a Toucam and a low-end Network camera at dusk.

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